Poland’s Suicidal Corps

How to save Europe from Poland’s dangerous stunt

Wojciech Przybylski
9 March 2017

Only Prime Ministers from the three other V4 countries can contain Warsaw’s suicide attempt. They should claim that Donald Tusk is the candidate of Central Europe and not all will be lost.

It does not matter if Donald Tusk, the former Polish Prime Minister, becomes re-elected as the President of the EU. This week, the final nail in the coffin of Poland’s EU diplomacy has been hammered home by Jarosław Kaczyński. Only the other V4 countries could save the Central European candidate along with Poland’s tarnished reputation.

It is almost impossible to explain why Poland will not support the only possible candidate from Central Europe; especially since Warsaw has made this region a pivot of its foreign policy. This move is self-contradictory and, at first sight, improbable, but nonetheless may effectively end Donald Tusk’s career as the President of the EU.

According to public opinion polls, the Polish people, who are by far the most EU-enthusiastic nation of the V4, prefer that Donald Tusk remains in his seat. But now they are starting to speculate on what else this government is capable of while remembering the months-old announcement from Jarosław Kaczyński’s which just came true.

Here is a breakdown of what happened. A verbal threat had been looming for many months but the general assumption was that Warsaw would not oppose the reelection if it came to a vote. What seemed to be just a diplomatic gamble before has now become a dreadful reality.

For Kaczyński, the opportunity to damage his old political rival is more important than any loyalty he might have to the Central European alliance. Kaczyński is risking that instead of Donald Tusk the EU may choose someone indifferent to the special interests shared by the Visegrad Group.

So far, the V4 partners have been in favour of the current President of the EU. All they need to do is stress that Central Europe stands firmly behind their man, and that might just save Poland from itself – for now.

Sadly, the twisted logic of Poland’s leader has revealed itself once again. Earlier he claimed that he can live with lower GDP growth as long as his ideological plan is able to be implemented.

But what if Donald Tusk will not be re-elected? Or even more important, what happens if he continues his mission without domestic support? Europe should brace itself because in each case the result will boost an anti-EU sentiment – both in Poland and throughout the EU.

If the former becomes a reality, the initial effect will be felt by the moderate factions in the Polish political arena and society who will find themselves facing an even greater tide of obstacles than they are already do. Having the President of the EU be from Poland is the symbolic anchor helping all of us to believe that Poland is not all about Jarosław Kaczyński. Losing this post may strengthen anti-EU fraction – which today is a minority.

If the latter becomes true, nationalists, both in Poland and across Europe, will use the occasion to signal how the EU elites are lacking democratic legitimacy. However false this may be, it should not be underestimated especially before crucial elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Should the EU heads of state decide to prolong Donald Tusk mandate against the will of Polish government, they should alternatively present him as the representative of Central Europe – the V4 minus 1. Perhaps this would be the only way to save Europe from Poland’s dangerous stunt.

Wojciech Przybylski is Editor-in-Chief of Visegrad Insight.

This article has first been published at EuObserver.